A small group of Waxwings was seen near Tweedsmuir
last weekend. There are reports of small groups being
seen over much of the eastern UK, also the Northern Isles,
but no mass influx so far this year.
Few reports of sightings of our winter visitors
of late. However, down at our reserve this morning, we
(the work squad) witnessed an exceedingly large flock
of Siskins. We are used to seeing flocks, usually up to
about 100 strong, going about at this time of year (they
feed on the Alder trees) but this sighting was a surprise.
Today's flock very kindly streamed across a convenient
gap in dribs and drabs so we were able to get a fairly
good estimate of the total number - over 900 birds
in the flock (Iain's count was 939) - well beyond anything
that any of us had ever seen before.
to our Gowk Tree, here are two images related to the
occasion. On the left, Jock is proudly displaying
the certificate received at Holyrood to commemorate
our achievement. On the right is a copy of the actual
The Woodland Trust's Tree of the Year has now
been chosen. The winner is Lady's Tree at Loch
o' the Lowes. This 100 year old Scots Pine, proposed by
the SWT, has been home to 'Lady', the oldest known breeding
Osprey in Scotland, for the past 25 years.
Our own Gowk Tree came in second place - a great achievement.
Third was the Clachan Oak (Balfor, Stirlingshire), fourth,
the Fortingall Yew (oldest tree in Scotland), fifth, Queen
Mary's Tree (chestnut, Cumbernauld) and sixth, the Kissing
Beech (popular with courting couples at Kilravok Castle,
Invernessshire). All worthy contenders.
Closer to home,
Garry saw his first Bramblings of the winter earlier this
week. They won't starve! They love Beech 'mast' and this
year has seen the biggest crop for many years (in fact
John reckons he has has never seen so much since he started
to notice these things and that spans some 60 years!)
Some additional information about our Gowk Tree
and Pouch Tree has come to light. Our Gowk Tree page has
been amended to include the new details.
From Dave Bradshaw-
At 8.20 on Tuesday morning, 16 Redwings feeding on the
berries opposite our house, they flew towards the crooked
road, then another 18 flew over Cornal Court (Beattock)and
headed in the same direction.Yesterday 27 Blackbirds feeding
on hawthorn berries on cycle track behind our house. 5
Redwing on holly berries in Cornal Court. No more hirundines
seen since last week looks like that is it for this year.
Went up to Earshaigs yesterday, large flock of 55 Redpolls
flying round plus 6 Crossbills and all the usual birds.
Dave has also sent a photo of a Heron carrying a mole(?)
and another of a Kingfisher - these will be added to our
gallery in due course.
to Dave's sightings of Redwing, there have been quite
a few small flocks passing over lately. One definite sighting
of a Fieldfare by Garry. No doubt there will be lots more
We have been
asked by a few people why there are so many geese flying
NORTH rather than south. These are birds, probably from
the Solway, looking for suitable grasslands to feed on.
Have received a report from Andy Riches entitled
"UK Badger Crime 2013" which you can view by
And from Dave Bradshaw -
House martins have still been going over the village each
day from 2-5 birds, recently more around mid day. Yesterday,
when rain stopped, 35 Swallows and 5 House Martins 10:45am.
Walked up to Earshaigs pm -
Beattock end of Crooked road - 5 Swallows, 27 Mistle Thrush,
32 Meadow Pipit, 2 Buzzard.
Earshaigs/Southern Upland Way - 6 Wren, Jay, juvenile
Willow Warbler (at the Lochan), 9 Long tailed Tit, Goshawk,
4 Buzzard, 4 Chaffinch, G S Woodpecker, 2 Robin. Plenty
of Damselflies still around.
We've received an email from DGERC asking for
help in research into Ash Dieback. The text of the message
is given below together with a link to an information
file describing what to look for. Your help would be appreciated
"Do you enjoy a walk in the woods? Or have Ash trees
near your home?
If so you may be able to help with research into
the causes of Ash-dieback which has become widespread
in eastern England since 2012. The disease is caused by
a fungus Hymenoscyphus fraxineus (formerly known as Chalara
fraxinea). Researchers at the John Innes Centre are studying
the related fungus Hymenoscyphus albidus that occurs naturally
with Ash trees but causes no problems to the tree and
are looking for specimens from north west England and
what to look for, what to collect and where to send it
are given in this
A couple of more items from Dave -
BBS square and Stidriggs area - female Hen Harrier, pair
of Stonechats, 2 Spotted Flycatchers, 4 grey
Wagtails, Reed Bunting, 2 Siskins.
Stidriggs track -6 Wheatears, 1 Whinchat
Kinnel water - Sparrowhawk, 22 Sand Martins
Beattock Country Park - Pair Mute Swans with 7 large cygnets,
Moorhen, Mallard with good size
WCBS (Wider Countryside Butterfly Survey) butterfly survey
on the BBs square, first visit - 270 Ringlets,
6 Small heath, 1 Meadow brown, 4 Green veined white, 3
And from Iain
Swifts will soon be gone but bred well as regularly I
saw 40-50 birds over Moffat. With Osprey breeding close
Moffat they are regularly seen over the town. A White
Tailed Eagle was seen locally on the 17th June over the
Community Reserve before heading up Moffat Water. Barn
Owls reared four young at Holmshaw, Beattock. Heath Spotted
Orchids were present on the Reserve this year.
Some sightings by Dave Bradshaw -
12/08/14 - Cornal Court, Beattock - 2 juv Willow Warblers
15/08/14 - Earshaigs - Meadow Pipit 18, Chaffinch 4, Swallow
16, Goldfinch 10, Stonechat 3, Song thrush 3, Mistle thrush
2, Blue tit 5, Willow Warbler 7, lots of juveniles and
a singing male, Robin 6, Wren 2, Spotted Flycatcher 4,
G S woodpecker 2, Goldcrest 3, Buzzard 4, Sparrowhawk
, Kestrel , Jay, Bullfinch, Redpoll, Siskin 15, Carrion
Crooked road - Pied Wagtail 8, Meadow Pipit 7, Buzzard
3, Swallow 9.
08/08/14 - at my garden feeder I had 25 House Sparrows.
At our reserve
this morning, still quite a few Dragonflies, Damselflies,
Darters and Chasers going about on the Middle and Woodland
Our meetings schedule for the forthcoming season
has now been organised and you can view it on our Events
Our main item
of news is that our President 'Jock' Dicerbo has decided
to stand down. Jock has been President of the club ever
since its formation in 1961. His all-round knowledge of
the natural world has been a great benefit to the club
and will be sorely missed. By unanimous agreement among
the committee, we would like Jock to continue as Honorary
As most of
you will be aware, this has been an unusually good breeding
year for most of our common garden birds. House Sparrow
numbers have rocketed - and there are still new broods
appearing! Blackbirds have done well as have the Robins,
Dunnocks, Blue Tits and Great Tits. However, it isn't
all good news - there seems to be a significant drop in
Swallow and House Martins.
At the Reserve, it is good and bad. Mallard have been
abysmally poor this year (in fact the first brood was
seen only a few days ago), something that seems to be
happening all over the country for reasons unknown. A
few Teal have made an appearance over the last week or
so. Canada Geese set about nesting but then abandoned.
Treecreepers have all but vanished for some reason but
other small birds have been fine. Moorhen have done very
well indeed with a few different broods coming through.
Our Sand Martin bank has also been a great success with
some two dozen or so nests this year. Tawny Owls raised
two young successfully and our Barn Owls have also done
There has been
quite a few sightings of Red Squirrels in the town, possibly
due to disturbance by the timber operations on Gallow
Hill. Sightings seem to be in areas where there are tree
corridors to the Gallow Hill and Tank Wood - Beechgrove,
Old Well Road and Greenwood Close for example. Very entertaining
to watch them raiding the bird feeders! Interestingly,
there has been two probable sightings of Pine Marten in
Greenwood Close this summer, one a brief visual sighting
in daytime, the other caught on John's 'trail camera'
during the night. These are likely 'wanderers' from a
colony not far east of Moffat. Pine Martens do prey on
squirrels but Red Squirrels are very nimble creatures
and hard to catch. Greys are more cumbersome and make
for much easier prey for the Pine Martens, a good natural
Work at the
reserve continues of course. Some new paths have been
laid (we've run out of wood chips so temporarily at a
halt), including one going all around the Middle Pond
which is great for seeing Damselflies, Dragonflies, Darters
and Chasers (and Water Vole if you are lucky!). Bridges,
sheds, hides and seats have all been repainted. An old
shed in fairly good order has been donated and is under
construction now near the orchard area. This will conveniently
hold a few tools so save us from having to carry them
all that way! New picnic tables have also been installed.
With good pathways and plenty of places to sit for a while,
it's a great place to come for a leisurely visit complete
with flask and sandwiches!
John had another squirrel in his garden in Greenwood
Close this morning. However, the good news is that this
time it was a Red Squirrel performing acrobatics to reach
the peanuts. It is welcome back any time! Not the best
picture but it was taken through the double-glazing.
2014 (replacing 6th June entry)
Red-breasted Goose was seen at our Reserve today,
apparently keeping company with the Canada Geese and a
Greylag. This goose is a native of Eurasia and is seldom
seen in Britain (even if it is an escapee rather than
a truly wild one). There were a few sightings at Caerlaverock
in April. To have one on our Reserve is quite something!
The photograph is by John Ramsay.
Update from Dave Bradshaw - checked the nest boxes
at Bankend for the first time on Friday(16th).
9 of the 12 new boxes put up are occupied and bits of
material in the other 3. Redstart and Spotted Flycatcher
are back in the wood but have not heard Willow Warbler
yet which is normally present by now. On first check Great
Tit is up two on last year and Blue tit up by one on last
Went up to Stidriggs this morning (18th) to do the early
visit on the BBS survey. While walking in the track to
the start point as I reached it a Male Black grouse flew
up from the field on the left hand side. First time seen
in this section of fields. I viewed a Cuckoo on the top
of a tree over on the edge of the Ae forest calling and
flying. BBS transect 3 had 1 male Whinchat, trans 5 had
2 male Whinchats and trans 6 had 1 male Whinchat so again
at least 4 male Whinchats on the square. Had a pair of
Grey Wagtails with 2 newly fledged young and a female
Goosander on the River Kinnel. The bad news is there are
no house martins at Stidriggs farmhouse today so if that
stays like that it has gone from 27 nests to slightly
less last year to none this year and nothing has changed
at the farmhouse habitat wise.
Update from Iain - Mid-April to 21st May.
At Dyke Farm Nature Reserve on 16th April were Swallows,
Sand Martins, three singing Chiffchaff and four Willow
Warblers. There were 7 Canada Geese around with two Greylag
Geese. A few days later there were three Mute Swans and
the first Blackcap had returned. The first Swifts were
over Moffat on the 2nd May and several moved through the
Reserve the following day. Usual assortment of records
of House Martin and Swallows and at the Reserve the Sand
Martin colony is thriving again with around 15 active
nesting holes which is really encouraging. The Starlings
have used three or four of the nest boxes we have put
up for them and there are now plenty young Starlings in
the fields. Our Barn Owls have hatched their young and
hopefully they will have a good season. A pair of Tawny
Owls are rearing their family next to the big Work Shed.
Stock Doves occupy a good few nest boxes too and Tits
and Nuthatch are also breeding in them though we have
not counted them yet. Butterflies are around with Orange-tips
and Small Tortoiseshell being seen with damselflies. Tadpoles
from Frog and Toad and Palmate Newts thrive in the ponds
with other pondlife and Jock has an aquarium set up in
the Woodland Hide for visitors to enjoy. Roe Deer, Red
Fox, Weasel and Rabbits among numerous small mammals have
been seen lately. We continue to work away and we have
planted a small area next to the Middle Pond with wildflower
seed so we hope they will put on a good show later in
the season. In early May, Jock photographed a Hobby at
the Community Reserve flying over the lochan which was
a really good sighting. On the 17th myself, John Smith
and Jon Haydon saw a Red Kite fly over the woodland at
the Reserve which was a real thrill and my first local
sighting of this amazing bird. Also present at the Reserve
that day was a small flock of nine geese comprising of
seven Canadas, a Greylag and a Pink Footed Goose.....pretty
good! Spotted Flycatchers were observed nest building
on the 21st near the Woodland Hide. Andy Dickson had two
pairs of Tree Sparrow nesting in his garden in nest boxes
though one was unfortunately predated by a Weasel. Bird
numbers in gardens are obviously much reduced but Goldfinch,
Siskin and Lesser Redpoll have been seen lately in good
And from John - my Italian update for 2014 has been modified
slightly since first posted. Should have mentioned that
it has a selection of photos of plants that I would like
identified - a challenge for all you botanists! Go to
Articles on the menu at the left, choose Italian Wildlife
and you will find a link to the update at the top of the
page, the plants are at the end of the page. Also had
the misfortune to see a Grey Squirrel in the our garden
last week but there has been no sign of it since (trail
camera has been watching too!).
Our Coffee Morning held yesterday raised just over
£1800 for the club funds. This is wonderful total
and our sincerest appreciation goes to all who dipped
deeply into pockets and purses to achieve this total.
We thank all of you for your support. We especially thank
all those who contributed to the various stalls and those
who gave up their time to working 'behind the scenes'
on the day. The wonderful carving, by Peter Bowsher, was
won by Hazel Hastie so it will remain 'local'.
On the wildlife
front, we had a report of a Barn Owl having been killed
on the road near Dyke Farm. However, it proved to have
actually been a Tawny Owl. Sad for the Tawny but a relief
for us as we feared we may have lost one of 'our' Barnies.
And an unusual one, on Thursday an animal was seen running
along a fence between Greenwood Close and Markland. From
size and description it may have been a mink but most
probably was a Pine Marten. There is a population of these
not far away so probably one of those out for a wander
- looking for Grey Squirrels with a bit of luck!
an update to John's Italy wildlife observations has now
been posted. Go to Articles on the menu at the left, choose
Italian Wildlife and you will find a link to the update
at the top of the page. The opportunity was taken to rectify
a couple of small errors and omissions in the original
Late March/early April update from Iain -
On the 22nd at the Reserve were 4 Oystercatchers, 2 Canada
Geese, 2 Greylag Geese flew over and a mixed flock of
3-400 Fieldfare and Redwing were around. While at Bankend
Wood on the 24th Dave Bradshaw saw a Grey Wagtail and
Garry Tait had a Peacock butterfly round Toot. Two days
later an impressive flock of 56 Whooper Swans were on
the lochan at the Community Reserve with 2 Tufted Duck
and a Little Grebe. Four Common Gull were at the Reserve
with a male Sparrowhawk and a few Meadow Pipits passing
over. While walking beside the River Annan at Brydekirk
on the 28th Anne and Howard Gibbard saw some Sand Martins
and an Otter. On the 30th I had a reliable report of two
Green Woodpeckers visiting a garden near Craigielands
at Beattock while a pair of Reed Buntings were at another
garden at Meadowbank Rise. On April 2nd a Sand Martin
appeared at the Reserve with 2 Chiffchaff calling. Many
Pinkfeet moving over and plenty Fieldfare and Redwing
in the area too. At the Community Reserve on the 4th were
4 Shoveler and the first Osprey arrived back up Moffat
Water. Scott and Janet Little saw the first Swallow along
the cycle track at Beattock on the 8th. The following
day at the Reserve were 2 Sand Martins and 7 Canada Geese
and a Cormorant flew over with 3 Chiffchaff calling. I
saw an Osprey near Crawford on the 10th and on Saturday
12th at the Reserve there were 5 Sand Martin, 4 Swallows
moving through and still Chiffchaff but no Willow Warblers
yet. The Canada Goose is sitting tight on her nest at
our reserve and the Oystercatchers are still showing interest
in the new gravel island. A ringed Lesser Redpoll was
in a garden at Meadowbank Rise among a small flock of
4 Lesser Redpoll and many Siskins.
This will be
the last update for two weeks - John off to Italy again
- so just a reminder that our Coffee Morning is on Saturday,
3rd May at 10.30am. We greatly value your support so please
come along and bring plenty of cash to spend!
Spring migration is well under way. Whooper Swans
passing through, various geese heading north, the first
Sandmartins have arrived, Chiffchaffs heard calling, etc.
A pair of Canada Geese seem to be taking up residence
on one of our islands, Oystercatchers are frequently overhead,
possibly evaluating the isalnds, but they haven't yet
dispersed for nesting. Most resident birds are either
already nesting or preparing to nest. Some good weather
would help immensely!
Have received the annual (2013) mammal report
for D&G from Andy Riches, the area mammal recorder.
You can view it by clicking here.
It is in PDF format so Adobe Acrobat Reader is required
to view it. Please allow time for it to load as it is
quite a large file.
Despite the apparent absence of frogs in John's
pond, a considerable amount of spawn appeared overnight
from Wednesday/Thursday. Around 30 frogs appeared briefly
on Friday evening but no more spawn evident so far. Andy
Dickson reported lots of frogs on the road on his way
in to the club meeting on Friday evening. Some frog activity
and spawn on the Reserve ponds today.
Little new on the bird situation, a few more sightings
of Blackcap and first sighting of Wheatear so our summer
migrants are on the way. Expect to see Sandmartins any
day now. Garry reports that Ravens are already sitting
on eggs. Animals are also becoming more active, quite
a few Badgers seen around Ballplay Road lately.
John had a male Blackcap in the garden yesterday.
Apparently one has been seen by Ann Murray in her garden
on Well Road over the past week or so, possibly the same
Dave Bradshaw saw two Hedgehogs feeding below his bird
feeder on Sunday morning so they are coming out of hibernation.
There are also a few sightings of Bumblebees on the go
so the fine days are bringing them out now.
Still very little frog activity at John's pond - only
3 or 4 seen so far.
From Jean Hunter-Grant, Hoppertitty, Beattock
on Friday 7th - First appearance of frogspawn this morning
in both ponds in the garden and lots of frog activity.
Last year it was the beginning of April.
(No sign of frog activity yet down at the reserve or in
John's pond - shouldn't be long now)
Jock Dicerbo, our President ever since the Wildlife
Club started in 1961, reached his 80th Birthday
two weeks ago (15th Feb). By way of a celebration, the
committee laid on a small get-together that night. We
presented him with a carving by Peter Bowsher depicting
a Gannet, much to his delight. There were numerous photos
taken and these have now become available so here is a
very small selection of them. It was unfortunate that
not all committee members were able to attend as, by all
accounts, it was a very enjoyable evening.
Another update - last Sunday/Monday, Jean Hunter-Grant
while walking her dog Nell, spotted nine Grey Herons alight
from a small pond between Milton Farm and Murthat. Also
in the area was a small roost of 26 Starling using a fir
tree to roost in. This morning, 20th February, Garry Tait
was at the Community Reserve and there were 30 Oystercatchers,
with a dozen or so using the floating rafts, and 6 Lapwing
in the area which was good to see.
John noted today Song Thrushes singing away heartily,
one on the trees bordering Merkland & Greenwood Close,
another on the trees beside Mill Green on Well Road.
There are signs that birds are starting to pair
off, a Woodpecker was heard drumming at Dyke Farm today
and a number of Oystercatchers were heard calling over
the town tonight. All signs that spring just might be
on its way - or is that wishful thinking?
Our Reserve Development page has been updated with a summary
of recent work.
As most of you will be aware, this has been a
very quiet winter season for bird sightings. Here is a
summary from Iain on what little has been reported to
him so far this year -
Since the start of 2014 there have been a number of people
reporting very small numbers of Bramblings visiting their
gardens. On 6th January, Scott Little had 5 Lesser Redpoll
in his garden at Beattock. A fortnight later Scott saw
two Oystercatchers down the APR Road and Garry saw one
passing over Moffat on the 28th. Garry reported a number
of Red Kite sightings between Moffat and Lockerbie. Clive
Ottowell had two good sightings of a Green Sandpiper and
a Water Rail at Lochbrow on the River Annan near Johnstonebridge.
At the Reserve on the 29th two Raven flew over while a
Kestrel has been wintering in the area. On 1st February
Grace Saunders from Beattock reported a Brambling in her
garden and on the 7th Garry had a flock of 17 Brambling
near The Yett farm at Johnstonebridge. At the Community
Reserve two or three Oystercatchers have been using the
floating rafts while small numbers of waterfowl can be
seen at times including Mute Swans, Goosander, Cormorant
and Tufted Ducks.
Andy Riches has sent the annual reports for Castle
& Hightae Lochs for 2013. These have been posted and
you can view them here. They are all in PDF format so
Adobe Acrobat Reader is required.
& Hightae Loch LNR Report 2013
Maxima Castle Loch
Maxima Castle Loch
Andy is asking for any last records to go into the 2013
D&G County Mammal Report. If you have any records
that you want included that have not already been sent
to him then now is the time! Reports of all mammals, from
mice to stags, are welcomed - they all go to making up
the full picture. You can email reports to firstname.lastname@example.org
Also John has
now posted his graphs for bird sightings in Greenwood
Close for the five years of 2009 through to 2013 and has
expanded it a little from previous years. This is also
in PDF format.
The long spell
of wet weather has hampered work down at the reserve lately.
However, numerous nestboxes have been refurbished and
put up, along with a number of brand new ones. We have
also made a start gravelling one of the islands but this
will be a long job!
On the wildlife front there has been very little to report.
Our winter visitors have been conspicuously absent this
year although still a few Fieldfare going about.
The recent spell of atrocious weather has done no serious
damage on the reserve. There has been some flooding but,
beyond dislodging some pathway logs, has been fairly minor.
We have been painstaking in keeping our drainage ditches
clear and it looks as if that has made a huge difference.
Recent work (beyond replacing logs!) has been on replacing
old nestboxes and adding some new ones. The 'boys' seem
to be doing fine without John's help (suffering from a
Numerous smallish flocks of geese were seen this morning
over Moffat, going in a northerly direction. It is likely
that their normal feeding areas are waterlogged and they
are seeking new ones. It is a bit early for migration
Another bird has been added to our lists - a Dipper
was seen on the reserve this morning. This is quite unexpected
as the habitat is not one that these birds are likely
to visit, they prefer fast flowing water..
the earlier entries for 2013 have been moved to the Archives.